At a recent hearing in Maroochydore Magistrates Court, an umbrella manufacturing company was fined for an incident in which a man was killed nearly two years ago.
Part of the company’s business was the manufacture of metal products such as flashing and roofing membranes and their delivery to customers. Two trucks with vehicle loading cranes were leased from an affiliated company. One of these trucks was called a “porter” and the defendant was responsible for its maintenance. The crane attached to this particular truck had two stabilizing legs, also called booms, on each side. Each boom has been designed so that it can easily slide outward and retract. Two locking mechanisms were attached to each boom to secure it in the retracted “transport position” and to prevent it from extending. The main mechanism was a spring-loaded handle that, when manually engaged, held the retracted boom in place. The secondary mechanism was a hook latch that was designed to automatically clip over a U-shaped bar once the boom was in the transport position. It is designed to prevent the boom from sliding outward if the primary mechanism fails or is not locked into place.
On February 5, 2018, a man employed by the defendant company was driving the truck through a housing estate when the boom on the passenger side of the crane extended and hit a parked delivery van. The force pushed the van backwards and pulled another man who had been standing underneath. He suffered fatal injuries.
Queensland occupational health and safety investigators found that the truck driver had not activated the primary locking mechanism on the boom on the passenger side before leaving the property. The secondary locking mechanism was bent and worn. Tests have shown that this safety device alone, without a primary locking mechanism engaged, does not provide adequate and reliable retention. The investigation was unable to determine whether the passenger-side boom expanded as a result of a failure of the secondary locking mechanism or whether the driver did not properly retract the boom in the transport position.
At the time of the incident, the crane was overdue for its 10 year main inspection according to the Australian standard and the manufacturer’s recommendations. The inspection was about 18 months overdue. The defendant did not have a maintenance plan or schedule to ensure that regular inspections and maintenance were carried out when necessary. The company also recognized the need for a 10 year inspection after receiving a quote for its other truck crane. A mandatory major inspection and maintenance should have included a review of the primary and secondary locking mechanisms to ensure they were working effectively and identified the need to incorporate a warning device in the vehicle cabin to indicate when there was no boom in the vehicle cabin Transport position.
During the conviction, Magistrate Haydn Sternqvist found that the defendant company was responsible for maintaining the crane, with the truck and crane being regularly used in their business. Magistrate Sternqvist referred to the aggravating circumstances of the case, which included the company not having a system to ensure that the trucks used in its daily operations were properly maintained. The truck was driven on public roads, causing unsuspecting members of the defendant to be aware of the need to conduct a 10-year main inspection of its other crane truck, but had not made any requests to get a quote for a similar service on the truck in question.
His honor dealt with improvements made by the defendant after the incident, including purchasing new cranes and starting an ongoing service contract with a specialist company to inspect and maintain the cranes. It also took into account the lack of previous convictions of the defendant company, the cooperation with the WHSQ investigation and the admission of guilt.
The company was convicted of an offense against Section 32 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2011 for violating health and safety obligations as a person managing or controlling the facility at a workplace to ensure that the facility was safe for health and safety of a person, and that failure put a person at risk of death or serious injury.
The defendant was fined $ 135,000 and sentenced to pay nearly $ 1,600 in professional and legal costs. No conviction was recorded.
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